The North Sea and the English Channel
Suwena is wintering for the first time in the water, thus the season that started in May ended by the end of the year. We also spent the Christmas onboard, actually this was the first Christmas onboard Suwena. We also made a personal record by spending 107 nights aboard.
The season passed more or less according to our plans. We left Kappeln in the spring and in total we visited in five countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom. Like we planned we managed to see both the big metropolises and the small islands by the boat. On the coast of the North Sea it is possible to get ashore only in towns and cities, therefore this year the anchoring was rather minimal. In the end of the season Suwena was staying in the water and she was wintering in Ipswich, on the east coast of England, at Ipswich Haven marina.
The route of this year was excellent. Traditionally the sailors from the Scandinavia sail quickly from the mouth of the Kiel Canal to the English Channel and across the Bay of Biscay towards more southern latitudes. Even if we had previously travelled all over Europe and elsewhere, the leisurely travelling by boat is something totally different. It is interesting to get the understanding about European history and to see how it affects our own lives. It is also fascinating to compare the cultures of neighbour countries. Usually the differences are not so obvious when arriving by plane and visiting one country at a time. Now that we were travelling forward country by country for two months, we could feel even the small changes in living habits and culture. We even got to know the regional differences inside the one country.
This year we sailed for the first time in tidal waters. On the first departure from Brunsbüttel we were rather nervous. However soon the tidal changes and tables in the Reeds Almanac became very familiar. In shorter legs, less than six hours, we nicely gained some speed by timing our departure with the tide. Of course in longer legs the tide turned and we lost the gained free miles. The additional twist was the harbours that are accessible only during the high water. Overall the whole tidal thing is much easier than in classroom when we studied the Coastal Skipper syllabus.
As the sailor of the Baltic Sea we were stunned by the salinity of the water on the North Sea. When arriving after sailing from the sea to the marina, the boat was covered totally with salt. Even the stainless steel started to rust under the salt layer. Even the smallest touch at the railing got fingers covered by salt. No wonder that sailors from the big seas do not believe that the Baltic Sea is almost saltless, it has no tide and it even freezes during the winter.
On the Blatic Sea the VHF is more like a safety device for making the DSC distress call. On the coast of the North Sea there are however several harbours that require a permission by the VHF before entering or leaving the harbour or passing the harbour basin. In addition in front of Europoort in Rotterdam the VTS service by VHF is mandatory for pleasure boats, as well. For example we were smoothly guided by VTS between four ships over 1000 feet long. It was like being an airplane captain when the VHF was belting out "Suwena, turn left now!"
The sailing voyage started in Germany where green Hamburg raised into one of our favourite cities. When planning the route we were thinking that would the up- and down-river legs on the Elbe river be worthwhile? The visit to city together with river cruise definitely was the time well spent. Also the island of Helgoland seemed a nice place after getting to know the areas outside the tax-free shops.
The area of IJsselmeer in North-Holland climbed to the list of the best boating destinations from last summer cruise. There are amazing number of boats because the Netherlands have over 6000 kilometres of canals in addition to sea areas. Of course we could only sample a small fraction of the canals because of our mast. It would not be a bad idea to put a motorboat on a trailer and head to Holland for the summer canal adventure.
In Belgium the charming town of Bruges was also inland connected to the sea by a canal. The former harbour city had retained its medieval charm from its hey day in the 16th century Belgium.
We also made a circle on the both shores of the English Channel. First in Normandy in France and afterwards on the south coast of England. In France, the town of Honfleur made a big impression to us. One of the summer's discoveries was the Yarmouth on Isle of Wight where we ended by the recommendation of other boaters. Unforgettable was also the autumn sailing to City in the heart of London.